Big News! Heather ONeal and I started a lactation podcast! It’s available everywhere you can find podcasts (I think!), and if you cant find it where you listen to podcasts, let me know!!
If you didn’t know, we’re both midwives and lactation professionals, and we spend our free time advising folks about breastfeeding on a facebook group: Breastfeeding for Busy Moms.
We decided that we wanted to make something thats really accessible for everyone. Breast/Chestfeeding is a human right, and lactation education should be available everywhere. The reality is that it’s not. Where we live in WV, and where many people live, there aren’t a great number of lactation providers available. There aren’t breastfeeding cafes or support groups in my town, there aren’t a bunch of parenting groups and prenatal yoga get togethers, there are just less resources for parents here.
So here’s what we decided to do about it. A free podcast with as much breastfeeding resources, information, and advice as we can get in there! We sit down together and have some down to earth conversations about all things lactation, breasts, milk, babies, mental health, and everything else.
Take a listen and send us a message with questions, comments, or suggestions for episode topics!
As usual whatever promise I made about regular blog posts fell through, I really do need to work on that…
But in other news I got my Etsy shop back off the ground, renovated into my art selling space. So, head on over to the Wandering Womb to check out the pieces I have for sale.
Currently its all digital downloads while I work out the kinks of producing or purchasing beautiful prints. In the meantime I’ve posted the pixels and dpi rating for each image so you know how large you will be able to print it. If there is something you want that you cant find, send me an email or a message and ask! I’m open for commissions.
Today I’m taking some time to be thankful for Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca. This lovely lady grows in my garden and comes with me in a tiny amber bottle just about everywhere I go. You ready to hear why I love this plant so much?
A note of disclaimer: information here is for educational purposes only and not for diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any ailment. You are your own best judge of your health and well-being, and the person who makes all final choices about your health (even when working with a doctor) is you! Okay, onto the herbs!
Parts Used: Aerial parts
Main Herbal Actions: Nervine, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, hepatic, cardiotonic, hypotensive, bitter
Indications for Use: The names of this plant give some idea of its range of uses. It’s common name “Motherwort” points to its uses for menstrual and uterine actions, while its species name “cardiaca” suggests that it has some action on the cardiovascular system. The full Latin name “Leonurus cardiaca”, or ‘lion hearted’, is one that many herbalists take to be the nature of this plant as a Nervine; a plant which protects the spiritual heart as well as the physical one.
As an emmenagogue, this herb can be used to stimulate menstruation which has been delayed or suppressed. It is particularly indicated when anxiety or tension lay at the root of this problem. There is also some indication for using this herb in formula to address painful menstruation or premenstrual symptoms. This stimulating action is why Motherwort is not recommended in early pregnancy, but is often used during labor. When contractions are “false” or prodromal, this herb has been known to ease the pain and quiet the contractions, drawing on its antispasmodic action. During early or active labor, Motherwort is frequently used when labor becomes eratic, uncoordinated, or stalls; its action as an emmenagogue stimulates the smooth muscle contractions and helps labor progress with a normal pattern. It is also found in many ‘herbal induction’ formulas for this reason. Motherwort contains alkaloids that may be responsible for its uterotonic properties (leonurine) as well as for stimulating the release of oxytocin in the human body (stacydrine). Combined with its actions as a Nervine to relieve anxiety and help individuals feel centered, this herb is often a great choice when indicated during labor or late in pregnancy. Adding to its uses for the female body, Motherwort is also a relaxing tonic for menopausal changes.
As a cardiotonic, Motherwort is excellent for strengthening the heart without straining it. It is specifically indicated for tachycardia or hypertension, particularly when anxiety is involved. It is thought to be protective to the myocardial cells, but evidence for this is not yet clear.
What Studies Show: One study from 1996 showed that an alcoholic extract of Motherwort demonstrated cardio activity in vitro(outside of a living organism). It directly inhibited calcium chloride on myocardial cells, provided the calcium chloride was administered after. It was also shown to stimulate both a- and B- andrenoreceptors. The dosage and methods used in this study are unclear. Another study in 1992 put forth some preliminary research which suggests that alkaloids contained in Motherwort are effective in lowering blood pressure and making changes in the central nervous system.
Safety During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Individuals receiving other cardiac treatments should be cautious adding Motherwort into the mix as it is unknown how it will interact with medications. This herb is not recommended during the first trimester, and should only be used with guidance from a professional during other parts of pregnancy. There are no known contraindications for use during breastfeeding.
The moral of this story is that I love Motherwort. I turn to this herb when I’m having trouble saying “no”, when I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable, or when my stress is causing chest symptoms (racing heart, heart palpitations, chest tightness, chest heaviness, etc). I keep Motherwort tinctures in my car, my purse, on my desk, and in my birth bag. What a versatile friend to have!
Welcome back to my blog, and thanks for reading! In an effort to create more content, I’ve decided to highlight some herbs that are super useful during the childbearing year. A note of disclaimer: information here is for educational purposes only and not for diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any ailment. You are your own best judge of your health and wellbeing, and the person who makes all final choices about your health (even when working with a doctor) is you! Okay, onto the herbs!
Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is a perennial herbaceous plant. It has a history of medicinal use dating back more than 2000 years. The leaves can be used as a tea, supplement, or extract.
Herbal Actions: Carminative, relaxing nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, anti-depressant, diaphoretic, antimicrobial, hepatic, anti-viral
Indications for Use: Lemon balm is an excellent digestive herb. It relieves spasms in the digestive tract and is useful in cases of dyspepsia. It is indicated in cases of bloating or excessive gas, and may be useful in cases of infant colic if ingested by the breastfeeding mother. The volatile oil in this herb acts on the interface between the digestive tract and the nervous system and is best indicated when there is also anxiety or depression. The oils are gentle sedative and relieve stress and tension reactions.
Lemon balm is considered a trophorestorative for the nervous system. This herb is indicated for use with neuralgia, anxiety-induces palpitations, insomnia, and migraines. It is a cardiac tonic which helps the circulatory system function normally and causes mild vasodilation of the peripheral vessels. This blood vessel action helps to lower blood pressure. Anxiety and high blood pressure are the most likely indications for use during pregnancy.
Water-based extracts of lemon balm make best use of its antiviral properties. It can be used internally for colds and flus or externally for viral lesions such as herpes.
It has some indication in cases of urinary incontinence and may be helpful when added to a formula created to address this.
What Studies Show: There have been limited studies on the use of lemon balm. Short term studies show that this herb is capable of benefitting mood and performance. It was shown to improve working memory and alertness.
Safety Considerations During Pregnancy: Lemon balm is considered likely safe for short term use. There is no research regarding the safety of this herb during pregnancy. Lemon balm may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones and should be avoided if there are any concerns about thyroid function. It is also considered a mild emmenagogue and should not be consumed in the first trimester of pregnancy. As always, when trying new herbs during pregnancy, a low dose should be used first and careful attention paid to the body’s response to this supplement.
In Practice: I have seen Lemonbalm used frequently in my practice as a doula and student midwife. I’ve witnessed it having a very consistent affect in helping to cease the upward creep of blood pressure that some people can experience late in their pregnancies. Usually I recommend it in combination with something like Dandelion root or Motherwort. Typically my clients use Lemonbalm as a tincture or a capsule, however I tend to recommend the form of this herb that best fits the lifestyle of my client. Frankly, not many people drink tea daily.
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a regimen of St Johnswort, Lemonbalm, vitamin D, and Omega 3 supplements have a wonderful effect on a client suffering with prenatal anxiety and depression. This client’s wish was to avoid pharmaceuticals, so we began this regimen at 33 weeks gestation and within a month saw a complete turn around. We did need to adjust the dose a few times, but once it was correct client reported that she no longer felt regular anxiety or panic.
Curious about using Lemonbalm in your life? Why not try growing it first, its a lovely plant that’s available from a lot of different places (even walmart!) and grows well in a pot so long as it has full sun. Happy Gardening!
It’s been a busy winter! Today, I’ve finally had to chance to sit down and do some updating and reflecting on my work from the past few months.
I had the privilege to spend a few days working at Ruby Memorial Hospital this March with the amazing Certified Nurse Midwives who practice there, and even some of the attending doctors and residents. I was able to observe both the beautiful and awful parts of hospital birth. The births I witnessed ranged from normal and natural with wonderful staff, to very managed and medicated with staff who did not outwardly show compassion toward their patient.
When talking about hospital birth, many doulas and midwives tend to focus on the latter type described above. One of my take-aways from my time was that the kind of horror stories that get passed around, while sometimes true, are not the complete picture. Part of what I now understand is how things can line up to create the circumstances for one of these awful experiences, and that no one on the staff is intentionally working toward that. It seem to me that there can be a perfect storm of exhausted, inexperienced, or transient staff that lands on birthing folks without much support. Seeing this only further cements my belief that doulas should be available to anyone who needs one, and that their services should be covered by insurance. While I sometimes feel conflicted about hospital-based doula programs, I would still love to see them more.
That kind of textbook terrble hospital birth was only one of six that I witnessed. I also saw some medicated births which were incredibly well supported. Mothers with epidurals and inductions who had compassionate and knowledgeable nurses that took time and care with them. Labors that ended in beautiful and uncomplicated births, and patients who were very happy with their choices and care. I saw natural, unmediated, and intermittently monitored labors; births where the staff were very hands off and respectful of the process and the time that it takes. I am so happy that this hospital has some incredible humans working in their childbirth center.
One of the most fascinating things I observed were the interactions between nurses, doctors, residents, students, and midwives all sharing the same space and working toward the mutual goal of safe deliveries. I have a deeper understanding now of the whys and hows of hospital birth that were perplexing to me before. I see just how much work it is to simultaneously manage the labor, birth, and postpartum care for so many different individuals. It was a whirlwind week, with long hours, laughs, and so much coffee! I’d like to say another great big Thank You to all the staff that helped me learn more about hospital birth 🙂
After spending some time in Morgantown, I’ve been getting back to work here updating my paperwork and birth log. I am now up to 2 catches and 26 total births! Hooray! I’m now only a few births away from crossing into a new phase of my training. I am about to start working as a primary midwife under supervision. I am really excited to be moving along so quickly and I can’t wait to start catching more babies!! Keep checking on my Facebook and website for more updates, and thanks for reading.